Advancements in technology and automation have made many aspects of the RFP (request for proposal) and proposal creation process easier and more efficient for sales and RFP teams. While software can improve content management capabilities and facilitate collaboration with SMEs (subject matter experts), most organisations still find that there is room for improvement around what happens from when an RFP or proposal crosses their desk to when it reaches the finish line.
In an effort to better understand the current climate, Qvidian conducted a survey of nearly 200 customers to uncover the challenges they are facing on a daily basis, and how they use technology to address them. Respondents included proposal team members and sales executives from Qvidian's customer base of mid-sized and large companies that are involved in the RFP and proposal creation process.
The survey results reveal concrete challenges in communication, collaboration and content updates within the RFP and proposal development process, which are made more complex when colleagues are located in different countries and speak different languages.
Here are the key findings from the survey:
The biggest pain point – deadlines
Not surprisingly, 45% of respondents reported receiving content on-time as their biggest pain point associated with colleague collaboration on proposals and RFPs. The turnaround time for RFPs continues to shrink, only building the pressure and time crunch on both the sales team to submit the RFP and the proposal writers to complete the RFP. To make matters more complex, completing an RFP most often requires input from several SMEs across different departments and offices, increasing the chances that someone will miss a deadline and hold up the document completion date. For instance, the survey revealed that 52% of respondents reported collaborating with anywhere from six to 100 different colleagues on a single proposal spread across departments including sales, engineering, product management, legal, marketing, operations and finance, among others.
Updated content lost in translation
An organisation’s content is often updated and personalised for any RFP or proposal, but is not frequently updated in the central content library afterwards. According to the survey, 41% of respondents reported their company’s content libraries for RFPs and proposals are updated only semi-annually, with another 24% being updated quarterly. This means that RFPs and proposals are frequently submitted without the most current information on company products and services included; 55% of survey respondents reported that their company’s content is only somewhat in sync with their business pace (i.e., product changes, compliance and regulation changes, new service offerings, etc.).
When companies collaborate on a RFP across various geographies with SMEs speaking different languages, translation efforts can add another time-consuming step to the process. More than half of survey respondents who collaborate with SMEs located in countries other than the U.S. and/or who speak different languages find the process to be moderately challenging, with nearly 20% of respondents rating it substantially or extremely challenging. With so many businesses 'going global' today, it’s essential that extra time is baked into the project schedule to allow for translation, or that the organisation uses software that automates the process.
What does it all mean and what needs to be done?
While the transformation of the RFP and proposal process is likely to continue, thanks in part to software and automation, many organisations still need to acknowledge these pain points and seek strategies for alleviating them. Otherwise, their competitors will do it first and present higher quality documents, faster. Leveraging technology and seeking to centralise RFP and content management, while automating the overall process, will streamline the workflow and communication among proposal teams and SMEs – all contributing to a better finished product. This, in the end, is what helps close more deals.
By Lewis Miller, President and CEO, Qvidian